by Mark Costello MRIAI
Whether you are embarking on a new house, an extension or a home renovation, your architect will use a range of different drawings to communicate the design. Drawings are provided not only for the client but for a range of people involved in the process such as planning officers, engineers and building contractors, amongst others.
The Survey Drawing
The starting point for any building project is usually a survey, which records the condition of a site and any buildings and and other features on the site, as they exist before any design work is started. When the design process begins, architects will often use the survey as a base on which to show the locations of new buildings or extensions to existing ones.
The Site Plan
A site plan will show the orientation and position of your house – or your site – within its context. It identifies the location and size of a new house or extension within the property boundaries and its relationship with existing buildings, trees and other relevant features. Where a planning application is required, a site plan will be an important drawing as part of the application.
The Floor Plan
Once the location and size of a house or extension has been established, your architect will usually draw floor plans to show the internal organisation of your home on the horizontal plane. The floor plan also shows the relationship of rooms inside it.
Along with floor plans, your architect will also produce section drawings. These are cuts through a building to show the vertical organisation of a house or extension and its features such as floors, stairs and roof.
Elevations usually accompany plans and sections. They show the exterior appearance of a house or extension including its height, materials, doors, windows and its relationship with other buildings or features on the site and surrounding context. Elevations are also important drawings where a planning application is required.
Perspectives and Axonometrics
Plans, sections and elevations are known as orthogonal drawings, meaning they are drawn at right angles. During the design process, your architect may also make perspectives or axonometric drawings to depict a design as it might appear in three dimensions. Traditional perspectives will show a naturalistic representation of a building, as though it might appear to the human eye. Axonometrics (also known as a bird’s eye view) have a more diagrammatic appearance. Drawings like these help to explain both design concepts and how a house or extension might ultimately look and feel.
To help explain the design of a house or extension, your architect may also make a model. Models are particularly useful where the design is complicated and cannot be explained easily with drawings alone. Models can also be surprisingly helpful in showing how natural light will enter and be dispersed around rooms and interiors. In the past models were usually hand made from wood or card but recent developments in printing technology have made 3D printing from digital design files more widespread.
As the design of a house or extension progresses towards construction your architect will usually produce detailed drawings to explain proposed materials and building techniques to you and also to building contractors. Numerous detailed construction drawings can be required for building, even where a house or extension is quite modest, and this can often be the most labour-intensive stage of a project for an architect.
At the end of the construction process, when a house or extension has been completed, your architect will often provide you with record drawings, showing the final design, as implemented. Record drawings are important for the purpose of building maintenance and also where future extensions or alterations are required. Keep them safe in both hardcopy and as a digital file (usually a PDF).
Mark studied architecture at UCD and after graduation worked as an architect in London and in Berlin. Following his return to Ireland he consolidated his experience of historic buildings by undertaking a masters degree in conservation at UCD.
In 2009 he established Strand Architects, details of which can be viewed at strandarchitects.eu